A very small number of people practice the seemingly perverse sport of “hit-and-release”, or hookless fly fishing. But this idea should not be too easily dismissed – these rebels may simply be well ahead of their time.
A hookless fly is nothing more than a conventional fly with its hook cut off at the bend. This arrangement still allows the angler to experience the real challenge in trout fishing; getting the fish to rise and take the fly.
Peter Bodo, in a November 7, 1999, New York Times column, writes of his introduction to the sport: “Eliminate the hook, and you eradicate any possibility of hooking and fighting the fish. We were either take the catch-and-release fly fishing to the next level – or reducing it to its most absurd conclusion.”
In Northern Waters (1999), Jan Zita Grover describes Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis as her Zen fishing paradise; Zen because its urban but nonetheless lovely and wooded waters were beguiling but virtually fishless.
This didn’t stop her from making it her home river, and she fished there often. But in recognition of its missing piscine element, she conducted her fly casting with a piece of yarn rather than an actual fly.
For her, the absence of fish was nicely balanced by the familiarity with the creek the short trip to it allowed, being able to watch a variety of insect hatches, and the dearth of other fishermen.
Another practitioner of hookless fishing who fished in a stream with actual trout said that if you don’t respond to the take, the trout won’t spit the fly out and you will be able to play with it for a while, and that the oneness with nature achieved by this approach is well worth the catches forsaken.
Will this rather subtle approach catch on? Bodo points out that catch-and-release was once considered a big fat joke too.